There is something definitely satisfying about the sound of tearing fabric. Either the slow, gradual rippppppp, or the swift, rapid tear, both paint an definitive image in the mind.
The old Laurel and Hardy films were, and still are favourites of mine. There is so much conveyed in those movie shorts, originally through expression, but even more so with the advent of sound. That satisfying explosion of sutures always left one or the other of the duo trouser-less.
Let me tell you about Tony.
I’ve just spent the last year ferociously busy with work. Non-stop ridiculously hectic and it’s made writing or completing any blogs difficult. But I had to pass this one on.
One of my close friends has worked with me this last year, which has made for an entertaining time because, well, he’s very self deprecating, extremely easy going, very funny and, one of the few people who make me laugh without trying.
He’s also a Man City season ticket holder and relives every tribulation, real and imagined his team goes through.
(Count your blessings he doesn’t sit behind you at games Viv )
I, on the other hand, support a proper team – Man UTD – so it makes for entertaining Monday mornings. But I can say, he’s very passionate about his team in his pursuit of watching his confused idea of perfection. To be fair, he’s quite honest in his opinions about his team. He wants them to play exciting, entertaining football. Anything else is a disappointment for him.
In fact, he’ll criticize his team when they win, for playing badly.
The last job I worked on went on for some ten months, with quite solid completion times in order to hand it over to the incoming client. It meant we had targets to hit all year in order to allow this business to open. So, from day one it was high impact work. organised in a way to be continuously rolling along and completing targets. I kept a team of lads I trust implicitly together in order to achieve this. They’re the only people in the trade I would ever recommend if anyone asked for top quality labour.
Tony was part of this team.
I think it’s fair to say, Tony had put a bit of weight on before the start of this job. But, with the way we were shifting each day, I think we all expected it to drop off. What we didn’t expect was him to gain a stone and a half after some very hectic weeks. I was impressed. It was only as we neared the end of the job that the issue was really raised.
It was a lull in a busy period and Tony was breaking a piece off a Toblerone, something he seemed to have a supply of at odd times like this.
“Blimey Tony. Have you put some weight on this year?” I asked my friend, as I looked at his body profile with one eye closed.
He’s strained to looked down at his own body
“Nooo. Welllllll, maybe a bit. I think I just have a slow, whaddya call it? Metabolism.”
“Slow? Jesus. I think it’s stopped. In fact, you only have an ‘ism”
“Yeah, yeah. Funny.”
“Seriously, You’ve actually put weight on.”
“A bit. Maybe.”
“Mate. Elasticated trousers aren’t a fashion statement.”
It’s fair to say he takes some ribbing. But to be honest that’s what makes Tony funny. The amount of – there’s no denying it – abuse, he actually gets is phenomenal. Over anything. He’s actually too good natured. It’d break a lesser person it really would. And if he wasn’t getting verbal abuse he would be ambushed in other ways.
One ideal situation would be to block him on his way to the toilet when he would get his daily two minute warning. This was a moment in his day when the toilet was a immediate necessity that could not be stopped. But obstructing his route as he was spotted trotting along and have him hopping on foot to foot in slight desperation while you talked to him, became another form of entertainment.
I must admit I can sit here right now and find myself actually laughing out loud when I think about some of the things he’s come in work and told us about that have happened to him over that weekend. And expected everyone to just carry on and not even comment.
The building trade is not, I repeat, NOT that kind of compassionate environment.
Jesus. Its like handing over a gun then passing on the bullets.
As he began to gain weight we actually took to watching Tony arrive of a morning and make his way over to Greggs bakery. He would meander back with what looked suspiciously like a twelve inch pastry and a coffee.
He kept claiming he went for porridge to start his day off right. But I’ve never seen anyone walk back from Greggs with a large coffee and look like they were trying to deepthroat a bag of porridge…
We’d be sat in the van upon arriving and there’d be a nudge and an “Aye aye. There he goes!” Then we’d sit and wait to watch him walk back to see how he would struggle manfully to get a bag of “porridge” down his neck by taking sips of coffee so it would be soft enough to swallow..
Then morning brew time would come. Tony would wander off with one of the other lads, Sean, to get a bacon and egg sandwich. Sean, who I hate to admit had a metabolism like a humming bird, just ate what-ever, when-ever with no impact.
I think unfortunately Tony saw this as a challenge and – Whooah Nelly! – did he lose that deluded competition.
He’d match Sean’s bacon and egg, or bacon and cheese, and he’d even raise the stakes and order a toasted tea-cake for afters.
It’s not like he’s even tall and can carry it off. His head just seemed to get closer to his feet.
This went on all year. And in between this, there were odd days I would walk out of the room I was working in to pass on some measurement, and find him chewing on a piece of Toblerone that had suddenly appeared from somewhere. It happened to be a particular favourite of Tony’s.
So, as the job drew to an end, I happened to take a sidelong glance at Tony and realized with a jolt he’s really packed a bit of timber on.
I thought it was time to give him a break and try a lighter tone.
“Honest mate, this time I’m not taking the piss or anything. You really have banged a bit of weight on.”
Tony was quite adamant – blinkered even – it was nothing to worry about. Certainly not as noticeable as I was trying to express anyway. I have to hold my hands up here because we had been quite merciless in ribbing Tony all year, on anything, so for him to doubt my sincerity was, in my honest opinion, a good move.
“We’re going to be having a Christmas night out soon and you don’t want to be looking like that kid, Chunk, from the Goonies do you?”
Tony just turned his nose up slightly.
“Actually I’m not sure if I can make it. I have other invites on the night, so I may not get out.”
“What! Your’e ducking our piss-up?”
Tony instantly blustered trying to defend himself.
“It’s my cousin’s do on the same night! Family! And my last employer has invited me out! There’s too many invites! I don’t know what to do !” He wailed.
“But Tone! We’re your mates!”
But Tony carried on without hearing.
“I’ve got the match on Saturday too! City are playing at home! I can’t handle a heavy session on a Friday when I’m expected to go on the piss before and after the game the next day!!”
“Ah well when you put it like that it’s completely understa – I can’t believe your abandoning your mates you fat bastard!”
“Thats it! I’m defo not going out on the Friday with anyone! I’m going to the match on the Saturday and having a pint then! No! Thats it! My minds made up!”
He held his hand in front of my face in a dramatic gesture to stop me interrupting.
(for the record I wasn’t even trying to speak)
“You can’t talk me out of it! I’m going to the game!!”
“Well if your mind’s set fatty, I obviously can’t talk you round . Tell you what. See how you feel on the night. I’ll pick you up if you change your mind.”
“Alright. I’ll think about it.”
The next day I walked over with Tony to get myself a sandwich.
“I’ll walk over to your shop today Tone. What are the sandwiches like?”
“Yeah they’re ok.”
He sounded somewhat subdued.
” Whats up with you? What you eating today?”
“A salad sandwich”
I actually stumbled.
“A what now?”
“A SALAD sandwich. Are you deaf?”
“No. But, well. Whats with the salad?”
“Wellll. I hopped on the scales last night -”
He snatched a look at me.
I ‘d made a noise.
“Sorry. I have “snigger reflex”. It must be genetic or something. Sorry. You were saying. You broke the scales…?”
“Yeah. Ha. Very funny. No, well, I jumped on last night and – ”
It came out in a rush, his revelation disgusted himself even.
“Well it was a bit of a shock I knew I’d put a bit on – butnotTHATfuckingmuch!!”
“Alright chunks. Calm down. Lets just clear up exactly how much you’ve put on shall we?”
“- Fuc -”
“- And a hal-”
“- k ME Tony!! A stone and a half! Jesus!!”
“Alrightalright! Iv’e got to start somewhere. So. I’m cutting stuff out.”
“Stuff? Stuff?? You want to cut out anything you can get in your mouth mate.”
“Seriously. I’m off the bacon and egg. That’s it! I’m being good!”
We talked it through as we walked over,discussing the merits of eating better types of food, while Tony led the way to his regular nose bag shop. It was a back street cafe, the type I hadn’t seen in a long time. These days It’s a modern, multi -selection of coffee/tea and special-bread sandwiches and wraps, with strange flavours of crisps. What happened to all those full English with a cup-of-tea cafe’s?
Anyway, walking into this place was slightly nostalgic.
We were greeted by a cheerful, thick set, middle aged lady who was obviously a firm believer in the attributes of cooking with lard.
“Hiya Tony! Bacon and cheese day today love?”
I snapped a look at Tony who had the good grace not to meet my eye.
“Your’e on first name terms-”
He completely ignored me and replied to the lady.
“No not today. I think I’ll have something new today. A fresh start! How’s about a chicken salad with mayo and cheese on – ”
He stole a glance at me,
I recovered from my shock to close my gaping mouth.
“Whoah whoah whoahhhhhhh! Tell you what love. Give him a chicken salad. NO cheese. NO mayo. And NO, butter. He CAN have brown bread.”
The lady in question looked from me to Tony.
“Is that what you really want Tony?”
Tony turned to me.
“Can I have a Toasted teacake for later?”
He turned back to the lady with dejected eyes, shoulders slumped.
“Yeah. Just the chicken thing please.”
It was left for the lady to stand momentarily with her mouth open. Then she slowly turned away reflecting Tony’s body language completely.
Obviously profits were going to take a massive hit.
We got back to the job, and sat in our adjacent van’s eating our sandwiches, Tony without the usual enthusiasm. I just kept honking my horn and rubbing my belly and mouthing “Yum Yum?” at him.
He was a bit dejected.
The next day we headed over to get a sandwich again, this time with another lad in tow, John. we decided to try a new-ish looking cafe for a change.
Tony was first to the counter. He took a long look at the menu then licked his lips and addressed the lady.
“Can I have a cheese and ham panini please and -”
“Hang on, hang on hang onnnnnnn! ”
I interrupted from behind. Tony shoulders slumped. I continued to the nice lady.
“Tell you what. Forget the cheese, no sauce’s, and he’ll have tomato there instead. He can have the bit of ham. And if he ask’s, he can’t have a toasted Tea-cake for after.”
Tony shoulders drooped even more.
The lady looked from me to Tony and raised her eyebrows with a silent question.
“Yeah. That’s what I want. What he said please.”
He turned briefly to me.
“Can’t I just have one toasted Tea -”
“Yeah. Just what he said please then.”
We sat down to eat, me with a toasted buttered bagel and John with a toasted cheese and marmite pannini, and I have to say even that looked more appetizing than Tony’s dusty and very, very dry ham and tomato panini.
Twenty minute later, back on site, I was congratulating Tony on doing well, when my phone rang. I was needed downstairs to take care of a job.
“Right. Well done you. I’ll be back in a bit.”
I turned away from a hungry looking Tony to find out what I was needed for.
Ten minutes later I was calling Tony on his phone.
I could hear the ring tone nearby.
“Hello? Tone. Listen.Where are you? Down stairs?”
I headed toward the fire exit door leading to the car park where I had heard his phone ringing.
“Have you got your foam gun with you? Mine’s at home.”
“Yeah, it’s in the van – I’m just near it now.”
He sounded muffled.
“Yeah I heard your phone I’ll come and get it off – ”
I pushed open the fire exit door as I spoke to find Tony stood on the other side.
He threw his hands in the air and turned away in disgust heading to his van, unable to talk.
The reason being he had been stood in this out of the way place with a six inch piece of Toblerone in one hand and a fair chunk in his mouth. All he managed was a muffled –
.”Awwwwww! ‘Um ooonnn -”
“Tony what the fuc -”
He managed to swallow.
“Your’e having laugh! I can’t even have this on the quiet -”
“Have you seriously snuck off to eat a load of chocolate -”
“You wouldn’t let me have a toasted tea-cake!!”
I couldn’t stop laughing. I was immediately on the phone to John, the lad who had accompanied us to the cafe.
“You’ll never guess what! Iv’e just found Tony hiding outside eating a bar of Toblerone!”
Even Tony could hear John laughing as we reached the van.
“Yeah! I Know! Toblerone!! So much for ham and tomato!! Hang on a minute!”
Tony was surreptitiously trying to open the sliding door on the side of the van to reach the foam gun.
“Hey! What have you got in there??”
I reached past him to open the door fully. A large bag fell forward.
“What the fuc -hang on John,”
I tipped the bag out to reveal its contents.
Tony literally threw his arm over his eyes in shame. This was going from bad to worse for him.
My voice was going up in octaves I didn’t realize I had.
Out of the bag had fallen the other half of the large Toblerone, A six pack family sized bag of crisps and a large party size tube of fruit pastels.
I turned to Tony.
“I was throwing it away today! I forgot it was there! It’s not even mine -”
“John! John! Your not going to believe this…”
As you can imagine Tony’s ribbing took on a whole new level.
The end of the week couldn’t come quick enough for Tony, which only remained to see if he was coming out with us for a beer or not. But he was adamant.
“No. Defo not. I’m not even going to my cousins do tonight. And I bought a ticket for that!”
“Ok mate, no worries. Tell you what. If you change your mind later I can still pop over and pick you up.”
“No, seriously I don’t think I can go out tonight and face tomorrows game and have a beer then too. So I’m just going for the beer on match day instead.”
So, that’s where we left it.
Next day, feeling, I have to confess, somewhat tender myself, I checked the scores to see City getting beat by Chelsea. I couldn’t resist it. I texted Tony knowing he was at the game.
The reply came back understandably subdued and then I didn’t have the heart to carry on after the week he had already had. I could add to his misery in person the following day as I had some wood to drop off for his wood burning stove.
I sent a quick text.
“Never mind mate.Worse things happen at sea! I’ll see you in the morning.”
There was a muted reply.
I turned up at Tony’s the next day ready to pick at his disappointment.
“Ok Tone? Bit of a hammering yesterday?”
“Yeah, and some. But, I’ve got to admit. I never actually watched the game.”
“What? your’e joking?” I know you’ve left games early before they finish but – come on! Your’e a season ticket holder! When did you leave? When the third goal went in?”
“Well, to be honest, I left before kick-off.”
“What Your’e joking mate! Why??”
“Well you know I said I wasn’t going out on Friday? Yeah. I went out. I didn’t get in till half four on Saturday morning. I went to my cousins do. I knew It’d get messy!”
“Oh mate your’e kidding!”
“No. And to top it all, I was blind drunk! I felt terrible when i got up on match day!”
“You didn’t carry on drinking did you?”
“I tried a half but I have to say -”
He looked green as he continued,
“My stomach rolled as soon as I had a mouth full! There was no way that was going down!”
“So what happened?”
“I just thought I’d give the beer a miss. But on the way down, on the coach , honest to god, I thought I was gonna barf up on the old lady in front. I kept having to swallow it back down!”
I winced at the image as Tony shuddered and carried on,
We got to the ground and the lads were all for a pint before the game, but there was no way I could face it. So I figured I’d head into the ground and sit and watch the warm ups.”
“Oh mate – ”
“Well I sat there for a while and my stomach was just rolling all over – there was no way I was going to get through the game without chucking up so that was it.”
“I went home.”
“What?? Without seeing a ball kicked??”
“Yeah. But that’s not the worst part.”
“There’s something worse?”
“Yeah. quite a bite worse to be honest.”
He looked extremely sheepish.
“What? Well? Get on with it!”
“I’m walking away from the ground and I only go and get my two minute warning!”
I began to laugh. I couldn’t get a breath to ask what happened.
It was his two minute warning.
“What could I do. I mean? What??” I had to go!!” I HAD to!!”
There was a note of hysteria creeping into his voice as he tried to defend his actions.
I could feel an asthma attack coming on. I was almost breathless as I asked,
“Where Tone? Where did you go?? There isn’t anywhere there!”
“There’s that open land at the bottom -”
“The Asda! there’s an Asda at the top of the hill -”
“I was at the bottom of the hill!! At the bottom!!!! I Looked like I was trying to walk along to a Bee-Gee’s track!!! I’DHADMYTWOMINUTEWARNING!!!!”
Like that explained everything.
I have to admit I was caught between horrified fascination and a morbid need to know what had happened.
“I ran down this path onto the waste ground, and , well, there was this mound..”
“Tony. It’s a lump of soil in a wide open area. It only shields you from the other side of the fucking mound! Anyone on that side of the mound can see you!!”
“I know! I know!! But I’d had my two minute warning! The sweat was pouring off me! Pouring!!!!”
What had followed wasn’t pleasant, with Tony circling the mound trying to pick a sheltered spot in a open plain. In the end, unable to contain it any longer he just had to drop his trousers and go for it, bobbing up and down like a demented Meerkat.
I was opened mouthed trying to take in what he was telling me when another thought struck me.
“But Tony, what about, I mean, Toilet paper Tony! Toilet paper? What did you use??”
“My underpants! It’s all I had!”
This painted another picture on my already scarred mind and I tried to comprehend the mechanics of what he was describing.
“Your – you mean you – What?? You stripped off your trousers in the middle of an open field to take off your underpants to use to wipe you –
“No!! Jesus! No!! Don’t be stupid!! I RIPPED them off and ran like fuck!!”
I swear, till the day I die.
The sound of tearing fabric will never, ever be the same again..